Times are hard for Space Stag over at Dudes Dudes Dudes, the songwriting battle royale. The new assignment is to write a non-denominational, spiritually uplifting song in the manner of George Harrison. It looks like it’s art imitating art imitating art, sadly; every chord progression I come up with just sounds like a T. Rex song. Which means that I have, today, revisited most of Bolan’s catalog, and my song-fixating tendencies have found Cosmic Dancer, and now that’s all I can think of. Even the dumb lyrics are strangely beautiful: “what it’s like to be a loon / I liken it to a balloon”– I was (am) really feeling that. Really. But if the source song is a rip-off, maybe that makes it okay.
I’ve been reading The Mirror and the Lamp, M.H. Abrams’s (Capt. Norton’s) study of the metaphors of poetry. He traces the development of an expressive theory of poetry from the contrary Aristotelian notion of poetry as imitation. It’s interesting to see the development of ideas we now take for granted, and I was thinking about it while I was talking to Sexface, Mike, SES, and others about aesthetic evaluation
We were mostly talking about the relationship of craft (technique, mastery) to inspiration (aesthetic content, gut feeling). I dislike labeling the first pole “inspiration,” because it forces the locus of evaluation on the creation and not on the project. But whatever. I thought that technique ought only to be in service of a larger aesthetic content, and wanking qua wanking lacks any value, except among a highly specific audience of fellow practitioners who have, perhaps, ratiocinated their aesthetic evaluations along the lines of “difficult to do -> good.”
Sexface argued that of course technique ought to be in the service of a larger aesthetic project, but I was just deaf to the aesthetic role of a given chunk of wankery. I should have countered with my love of Television, but this other question started to bother me.
These days, the claim that technical mastery ought only to be in the service of inspiration is, as Sexface said, obviously the case. (Tho’ it might not have always been.) However, the question of how much wankery becomes too much wankery is clearly up for grabs. Here is the interesting question: is this just a sorites paradox? And are all aesthetic problems (of a particular mode of aesthetic evaluation) just special cases of this one?
Or, Blog as Big Other. If we thought someone else was paying attention, maybe we would pay more.